13. LUNAR EXPLORERS

by Sir Harold Spencer Jones

It is not possible to admit that there is life of any sort on the Moon. It is a world that is completely and utterly dead, a sterile mountainous waste on which during the heat of the day the sun blazes down with relentless fury, but where during the long night the cold is so intense that it far surpasses anything ever experienced on the Earth.

These hard facts are conveniently ignored by those who believe that it would be possible to shoot a rocket containing human beings to the Moon, from which the human explorers could land and explore some portion of the Moon's surface. The explorers would need to be encased in airtight suits and provided with oxygen apparatus to enable them to breathe. Even supposing that they could protect themselves against the great heat by day and the extreme cold at night, a worse fate might be in store for them unless their suits were completely bullet proof. For they would be in danger of being shot by a shooting star. The average shooting star or meteor, which gives so strongly the impression of a star falling from the sky, is a small fragment of matter, usually smaller than a pea and often no larger than a grain of sand. Space is not empty but contains great numbers of such fragments. The Earth, in its motion round the Sun, meets many of these fragments, which enter the atmosphere at a speed many times greater than that of a rifle bullet. The meteor, rushing through the air, becomes intensely heated by friction and is usually completely vaporised before it has penetrated within a distance of twenty miles from the surface of the Earth. Many millions of these fragments enter our atmosphere in the course of a day, but the atmosphere protects us from them. On the Moon, however, they fall to the surface and so great is their number that the lunar explorers would rut a considerable risk of being hit.

The difficulties that would have to be encountered by anyone who attempted to explore the Moon - assuming that it was possible to get there - would be incomparably greater that-those that have to be faced in the endeavour to reach the summit of Mount Everest. In two respects only would thee lunar explorer have the advantage. In the first place movement would be less fatiguing because the gravitational pull of the Moon is not very great, the weight of the Moon being only about one-eightieth of that of the Earth. If the Moor had an atmosphere like that of the Earth, a golfer on the Moon would find that he could drive his ball for a mile without much difficulty and a moderate batsman' would hit sixes' with the greatest of ease. The second advantage the lunar explorer would have over the climbers on Mount Everest would be the absence of strong winds to contend against. The Moon having no atmosphere, there can be no wind; nor, of course, can there be any noise, for sound is carried by the air. The Moon is a world that is completely still and where utter silence prevails.

(from Life on Other Worlds, by Sir Harold Spencer Jones (English Universities Press)